I look around my apartment–boxes, crates, piles of things that don’t quite fit into those boxes and crates and instead are precariously stacked on top and around them. A mental map guides the chaos: mine behind the couch, Weston’s by the door, donate by the window, sort against the wall. Sort is always the hardest. It’s never simply garbage or donate. It’s the bag of costumes from the Halloween we all dressed up as mythological characters (dragon, unicorn, griffin). It’s the free poster we got from the American Indian Arts Museum on our road trip through Santa Fe. It’s the ceramic giraffe we stole from Weston’s mom’s bathroom and proudly displayed on top of the television until it fell and the legs broke off. It’s all the things heavy with memory, things we love but can’t bring with us, things we can’t bear to leave behind.
Last summer, not too long after I got home from Europe, my family and I were playing a board game where someone reads a questions, everyone answers, and then the person guesses who gave each answer. The question I will never forget asked, “If you could wipe one country off the map, which would it be?” Each person in my family answered differently: North Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran. I asked them why, and everyone said the same thing, “Because they hate us!” I answered that I wouldn’t wipe any country off the map, and they said I was cheating.
The shower curtain in our apartment is a map of the world, and sometimes when it is early and I’m tired and can’t quite muster the energy to shave my legs yet, I look at the places I’ve been. All the places held not by pins on the map but by memories of people and experiences. Montana, Amsterdam, Morocco. Even places I haven’t been, but feel attached to for whatever reason. Norway, where my wonderful friends Ole Martin, Magnus, and Oystein live. Colombia, where my conversation partners/friends Marcela, Santiago, and Juan are from. Korea, the home to where Mirae, my sweet friend from the Writing Center, will soon be heading. Places I might not have given a second thought to at an earlier point in my life now represent the points on the map where I can find some of my dearest friends.
I look around my apartment at all this stuff and realize how lucky I am. Lucky to have the means to accumulate all these possessions in the first place, and luckier still to be able to part with them–or at least a lot of them. Lucky that I’m poor, jobless, and straight out of college, never having the opportunity to amass anything of real monetary value nor the shackles of debt that often accompany those sorts of things. Lucky that my parents instilled in me a large enough sense of wanderlust and a bitter enough distaste for fashion that I could come home to them from someplace, holes in my shoes, rips in my jeans, and the only money left to my name the foreign coins in my pocket. And I couldn’t be happier. Most importantly to me at this point in my life, I’m lucky to not be chained to the things I own. So many people own houses and animals and beautiful furniture they have worked hard to spend their money on, and it is difficult to part with those things for a week-long vacation, let alone permanently. I’m lucky that the hardest things for me to part with are those with sentimental value. Even though it’s difficult for me to pack up my entire life into boxes and get rid of most everything I’m attached to, it is being free of these possessions that allows me to go see the places I’ve always dreamed of in real life, not just on a shower curtain. When I come home, the shower curtain will still be here. I will just have more places to remember when I look at it.